August 8, 2012

Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

Andrea Summers, BSN, MS
HPCG Bereavement Counselor II

  • Accept help and be prepared with a list of ways others can help you. Let the person choose how and when they can help you.
  • Focus on what you are able to provide.  Don’t give in to guilt.  No one is a perfect caregiver. Know that feeling guilty at times is normal.  Remind yourself that you are doing your best.
  • Set time for your own personal health needs.  Set a time to be physically active and keep that time available.  It’s crucial to get adequate rest and nutrition.  Know when to stop and say this can be done at another time.  Follow up promptly with your physician, because your health is just as important as the health of your loved one.
  • Get connected.  Look for area caregiver classes, such as support groups or meetings especially for the illness related to your family.
  • Focus on positive thinking.  Learn to turn negative feelings into positive thoughts.  It takes time, but it will be worth the effort.
    • Identify areas to change.  Focus on the areas of your life in which you typically think negatively and focus on one area at a time.
    • Stop and evaluate what you are thinking.  Find a way to put a positive spin on the negative thoughts that invade your mind.
    • Give yourself permission to laugh, smile and find humor even during difficult times.
    • Surround yourself with positive, supportive individuals.  Negative people can increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to cope with feelings.
    • Practice makes perfect.  Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else.  Respond rationally with positive affirmations for yourself when the negative comes “creeping in.”
  • Prioritize your “to do list” and focus only on what needs to be done at a particular time.
  • Do something for yourself each day – no matter how small.  You must find balance in your life. Be good to yourself so that you can be good to those for whom you care.